cheap gas bad

It’s heresy to say such a thing here in Detroit, but technology reporter Tom Walsh gets it exactly right in today’s “Free Press” when he says that inexpensive gas is bad for our country. Here’s a clip:

Excuse me for not doing cartwheels over gasoline prices dropping to $1.87 a gallon.

This is bad news for a nation of immediate-gratification consumers and attention-span-challenged policy leaders. It means we can expect renewed American demand for big, thirsty vehicles that have no appeal anywhere else in the world, and waning interest in bold steps to reduce our nation’s dependence on imported oil…

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34 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted January 18, 2007 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    I am pretty sure, if you want to give the station owner $3.50 a gallon for gas, they will take your money. You can encourage all your friends and neightbors to do the same.

    Heck maybe Arlo G. is right, you could call it a movement.

    – Steve

  2. ol' e cross
    Posted January 18, 2007 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    I recall public meetings at a previous public employer of mine that beleaguered me because, on certain casual Fridays, I had to renounce my one perk and attach a tie to my proportionally over-sized neck. (Many parts of me are oversized.) Whenever the topic of public transport or expanding roads game up, one odd gentleman, that had somehow found his way to this semi-important public policy committee, would vehemently object to anything that increased oil consumption … not because he was an enviro-hippie or an advocate for the poor but because he was a veteran patriot. (Pearl Harbor, somehow, entered all of his impassioned tirades.)

    He had no ideological allies among the activists or elected, and so, came off as a quaint if not slightly annoying eccentric. Like some street corner doomsdayer, he foresaw a time where his beloved military personnel would be called to give their lives for cheap oil. (A tinge of a Libertarian, he also felt the true tax cost of oil wasn’t properly assessed.) This was a fair spit before 9-11. He was, and I imagine, still is, spitting at wind.

    Today, it’s hard not for me to project a drip of blood in each gallon I pump. The environmentalists get it. The advocates for the poor get it. A veteran patriot gets it. But, how do we get the hedonist consumers whose only concern is whether cheap gas allows them to buy the furriest furry pant or HDTV superbone to get it?

    Now I recall a hyper-dramatic mediocre poem that had the sun being cut out of the sky and all things going wrong ending: “How much darker does it have to get before someone notices, something is missing.” Or something like that.

  3. ol' e cross
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    Steve,

    Please clarify your point-of-view. Are you suggesting that those who care about the repercussions of excessive consumption pay more, while those who don’t give a flying fuck for anything but their immediate comforts continue to pay as little as possible? To my dismay, the same perspective seemed to recently be echoed by my councilperson (who I personally like as a fella), on his blog, when he called for concerned citizens to donate money to the city so unconcerned citizens could continue doing diddy squats. Is your solution really let those that give a damn pay for those that don’t? If you care about Ypsi, pay more. If you care about consumption, pay more. If don’t, go on your merry way (because others will cover your debt)?

  4. t.d. glass
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    With all due respect, I think you may have misunderstood the article, Steve. Walsh wasn’t looking for ways to further enrich gas station owners. He was suggesting that our long term interests as a nation might not be well served by inexpensive fuel. He’s suggesting, I think, that the actual cost of fuel we pump, if you factor in the cost of wars and the like, is quite a bit higher than $1.87 a gallon, and that we can’t afford to not acknowledge that fact. Right now, quite a few of us think we’re making progress. More is being invested in alternative energy, and automakers are beginning to phase out the gas-guzzlers. Walsh’s concern is that inexpensive fuel threatens to impede this progress.

  5. Dr. Cherry
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Suvs making a comeback
    Cheaper gas prices fueling SUV comeback

    Deconsumption’s going to be a bitch.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Ol’ EC

    Absolutely not, I am not suggesting that those who care about excessive consumption pay more.

    Mark was waxing about how cheap gas is bad and I was merely suggesting that one course of action would be to voluntarily pay more. I didn’t say it was a good one nor the only one.

    But for those that feel gas is too cheap there are things you can do. Don’t buy gas for one. Give your money to organizations or cooperatives that support altenative fuels. There are many other choices.

    You have a choice.

    The same goes for those folks that don’t think the government has enough money, they are always welcome to send them more. Thousands of people send the IRS more than they owe every year. Some is earmarked to a particular group say Forest Service or VA, others are just a gift to the general fund of the government.

    Concerned citizens here in Ypsilanti could do the same thing. If you have money and think that your government can spend it more wisely than you, by all means give the money to the governemnt.

    You don’t have to wait for a tax or a fee that forces you to turn over your paycheck. You have a choice.

    I think many react far too quickly to these blog posts instead of thinking about the issue for a moment.

    I am suggesting that becsaue of the current system you have a choice. You can buy gas or not buy gas. If you want to pay more for gas, you can pay more. If you don’t like the rammifications of cheap gas, opt out and go off the grid and get rid of your car. If that means you can’t get to wrk, then find a job that doesn’t require you to drive 30 miles every day or move closer to work so you can walk or ride public transportation.

    There are many options, the quetions many fail to ask of themselves, “am I willing to make those choices to support the values I believe.”

    That is the problem with legislating choice, for example adding a gasoline tax, creating graduated fees for consumption of the variety of other proposals that take away your ability to decide how best to spend your money.

    When you remove or abdicate control to others, you hope and trust they have your best interests. For example the city government is considering giving an Ohio business an additional $500,000 in tax credits for the Penn Place apartments. This is on top of hte several million in tax breaks they already got.

    Is that the best place to spend our shrinking tax dollars, or should Council spend that money on keeping the buses going and to keep the Pool and Senior Center Open. $500,000 will keep these other services going for 3 to 5 years.

    Has the government really been spending tax money on those issues you feel are important?

    If you answer is no, then pause for a moment and ask this question: How will giving the government more of your money, say through a city income tax or higher fuel taxes, make it better.

    I would rather trust you, Ol E Cross, to know what is best way for spending your money.

    There are many good reasons to have government and taxes, I am not anti-governemnt or anti-tax. However, not every problem can be solved by the government.

    Each person on their own can make changes in the way they spend their money to effect changes in our community.

    My post was simply to suggest, that if you don’t like the way you are spending your money, you can always give it to someone else and hope they can spend it wisely for you.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  7. schutzman
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    There’s a relevant passage, I believe in ‘Critical Path’, where R. Buckminster Fuller computed the cost of a gallon of gasoline. Basically, he applied the average killowatt-per-hour fee for energy currently charged by utility companies, and then figured out how much it would cost if the geological forces which ‘created’ oil over many eons had been on a standard meter.

    The resulting figure, as you could probably surmise, was several million dollars per gallon.

    This wasn’t an effort to suggest that everyone should actually pay that much at the pump, of course, but rather a way to show that the fossil fuels should only be regarded as an emergency back-up battery for earth’s inhabitants, to be used in a case where ‘free’ energy (hydroelectric, solar, wind, geothermal, etc) is impossible to get (i.e., following impact with an asteroid).

    Anyhoo, I’m often reminded of his exercise, and was reminded of it again just now, and thought I’d mention it.

    As for the reality of the case at hand, I (perhaps obviously) would agree that American gasoline should be taxed at a level similar to that of the rest of the ‘civilized’ world (making it $5 a gallon or so), as the net results (not even counting what the guv’ment DOES with the taxes) would be universally beneficial in the long run. Most people would need to have more fuel efficient vehicles, or be forced to depend on public transportation- these needs would force “The Market” to provide a very different set of products for our consumption than what is currently available (i.e., crappy bus systems in some cities and a handful of hybrid vehicles which are beyond the price range of most people).

    We, as a population, need something to force our hand. Paying a little bit more- although obviously a ‘sinful’ notion in our consumerist culture- is infinitely preferable to the other alternatives that could come along and solve the problem for us.

    And, as for how Ol E Cross spends his money, I’m sure he can think of many clever ways to do so, but the fact of the matter is that he will always get the most for it if he pitches in collectively with others (i.e., the population of the u.s.) to pay for something that provides for the common good.

    “Better Red than Dead,” I always say.

  8. ol' e cross
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    The idea of walking into the Corner Brewery and seeing a “Free Beer, Donations Accepted” sign is appealing. But, if society is going to share equally in the benefit of something (e.g., reduced dependence on oil, clean air, less blood), it should share equally in the cost. That’s all I’m saying.

  9. egpenet
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    There’s an echo in here …

    If you want a Prius, buy it and enjoy it. Pay the premium over list price and get the savings and learn to live with the interior “squeeze” on comfort and convenience.

    If you’re like me, continue to maintain my 1992 Aerostar with 211,982 miles and get 12-15 mpg and pay the price for gas, whatever it may be on that day … and pay along the cost to my customers … whoever they may be on that day.

    Where’s all this parnoia coming from?

    As long as Bush is in the White House and Irag and Iran are on the agenda, the Saudis will give us all of the gas we can suck up. Once the Democrats take over the White House, it’s European prices per gallon, I guarantee, $4-$5.

    Bush is giving us this temporary blessing to shut us up. The Dems will ask us to “share the world’s resources, and be good world citizens”, when they get in. OK. When the time comes, I’ll pass that cost along to my customers, as well.

    What’s the connection between the two scenarios?

    Having a business, where you can pass along these costs, and deduct other expenses on your taxes. If you are salaried, you’re screwed!

    Start a business … a comic book publishing company, for instance. Bingo! You don’t need Dingell’s gravy train anymore, and he’s irrelevant to you! You are free. The Constitution … life, liberty, and the pursuit take on a whole new meaning.

    And that’s how it is. Right, Steve?

  10. Anonymous
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    You have outlined the benefits, but lets layout the negatives? What would be the negative consequences of having increased fuel costs though a government tax. What would be the impacts on jobs, farming, transportaiion, goods and services, and other things.

    Anyone else can jump in. Also I am sure there are other benefits so lets be fair and suggest those as well.

    BTW, just curious, what kind of car do you drive.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  11. Anonymous
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    But Ed, wouldn’t there be a benefit to the environemnt if you drove a car that got better mileage and didn’t pollute the air as much?

    Don’t 20 year old cars dump alot more pollutants and carcinogens into the air than do modern cars.

    – Steve

  12. egpenet
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    The type of vehicle I need for my work isn’t any better today on gas or pollutants than my Aerostar, which I keeep maintained and running as clean as possible.

    What pollutants it creates I have funnelled through the recirculating air system into the interior. And at my age, it simply doesn’t mastter any more. You have any lead painted surfaces that need sanding and/or remediation, I’m your guy … I think. (Can’t remember.)

  13. egpenet
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    As for the negative impacts of increased fuel taxes … like I said I do with my customers … business would pass the costs on to their customers to some extent, if not totally … higher prices for everything would be the result, including higher prices for raw materials made from petroleum-base products … which is just about everything.

    Reducing our individual carbon footprint is desireable but extremely difficult given the tremendous dependency we have on plastics, PVCs, wiring, tubing … you name it.

    Benefits? More money for congress to spend on trips to nice places.

  14. Anonymous
    Posted January 19, 2007 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Actually a ULEV vehicle will put out substantially less amount of pollution including particulates. And we greatly reduce by some 25 to 50% the amount of gas consumed over current vehicles on the road.

    So as it was stated earlier,

    “share equally in the benefit of something (e.g., reduced dependence on oil”

    thus, the government is going to legislate that you go out and buy a more efficient car. Sorry no choice here, just like you would have no choice over the price you pay for gas, we can’t trust you to make the best choice in the type of vehicles allowed on the road.

    Because realistically, just raising the cost of fuel isn’t going to change Ed’s mind or a whole bunch of other folks that are keeping these old gas guzzling, air polluting cars. He is still going to drive his Aerostar. Ed’s a great guy and all, but he is sort of stuborn you see.

    It isn’t just about reducing our dependency on foreign oil we need to do something about environmental pollution if we want save people from needless deaths caused by the pollution, the affects of asthma and other detrimantal effects.

    So taking away those cars that are most polluting will have a greater impact on oil dependence than just cranking up the price of gas to $5 a gallon.

    So in the interest of the global ecology, the government is coming over and taking everyone’s car that is 1995 or older on Tuesday, have a nice day.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  15. leighton
    Posted January 20, 2007 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    One benefit to government “parameters” governing vehicles and their thirst is the fact that necessity is the mother of invention.
    Countries with high gas taxes and controlled roadways produce the best-engineered cars, especially compared to our wheeled boats.
    Yet, countries like Germany still produce frivilous vehicles like Porsches and Maybachs for Germans who can afford them (many of whom can afford more because executives at said companies don’t make 400x more than their underlings – not so at big US corporations. Not sure if this a free social construct or a goverment rule though.)

    One area where our cars aren’t too bad is safety. Government crash test standards are a selling point to kid-infected US consumers screaming “won’t somebody think about the fat children!”.

  16. ol' e cross
    Posted January 20, 2007 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    “So taking away those cars that are most polluting will have a greater impact on oil dependence than just cranking up the price of gas to $5 a gallon.”

    I doubt it. Not, if as Mark’s suggested, the extra $3 goes to fund research into alternative fuels, and/or, as I’ll suggest, transit.

    Just taking away cars adds nothing to funding a solution.

    Minus Libertarians, I imagine most of us accept that one role of government is to restrict individual “choice” for the greater good. Sadly, I cannot “choose” crack dealing, prostitution, or swindling to make my way in the world. The question isn’t choice, but whether the impacts of oil consumption have gotten to the point where we can no longer collectively afford the right to choose as if our oil consumption was simply a matter of taste on par with whether we decide to choose to purchase a sage shirt or go with the periwinkle.

  17. schutzman
    Posted January 21, 2007 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    “the government is coming over and taking everyone’s car that is 1995 or older on Tuesday”

    …isn’t that what they essentially did to all prior (non-automobile) forms of trasportation in the 1950s, when the interstate highway system was established?

    (…and Ol’ E Cross, I believe that ‘swindling’ is actually still quite legal. I doubt we’d be having this conversation, otherwise.)

  18. egpenet
    Posted January 21, 2007 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I AM stubborn …

    Some of my sources tell me oil is going down even further, perhaps, $38-$40/bbl! That should translate at BP to about $1.18/gal. or less. So … what, me worry?

    Yes, because while there plenty of oil and gasoline thanks to Bandar Bush and the boys … at least for the next two years … the NYT reports that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet could raise coastlines one foot within the next five to ten years. (It’s currently losing 80 cubic miles of ice/year.) And if it ALL goes, sealevels will rise over 20 feet around the planet.

    Kiss Riverside Park goodbye … but then I’d be taxed by Ypsilanti with lakeside property rates!

    Cost of buying a “working” van … we paid 13,000 for the Aerostar in 1992. A replacement vehicle with no 2nd or 3rd seat … uninsulated … no air, stick shift, etc. … today lists for $30K. I can buy a new engine and transaxle sevral times over for $30K! ASnd the last thing I need each month is another $400 payment.

  19. Anonymous
    Posted January 21, 2007 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Confiscating the cars would dramatically decrease oil consumption. By eliminating all cars before 1995, we would see an immediate increase in average fuel mileage jump some 20 possibly 25%.

    Oil from the Persion Gulf accounts for about 15% of the oil used in the U.S.

    So this one step would virtually eliminate our dependence on ‘blood oil’ as someone called it earlier.

    We would seem a similar drop in particulates and greenhouse gases. There are some that think this one step would eliminate any air pollution warnings both in the winter and summer.

    I haven’t run the final numbers, but in the first look, confiscating the cars would do more to impact gas consumption than would a tax to increase gas to $5 a gallon.

    So if the goal is to take an action to benefit the world, this is a better step than $5 gas.

    See you Tuesday,

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  20. Anonymous
    Posted January 21, 2007 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Ed,

    I realize that replacing the Aerostar van maybe expensive, but Ed you have to look at the global picture and not be so selfish. This is for the good of the world. Don’t you want to save the world?

    This would cost most people just $25 a week.

    Besides, you could buy a used 1999 van for under $6,000 so really the costs to you are not that big. Ford has new vans with no options starting less than $20,000.

    Besides, there would be far fewer cars on the highway, so instead of building new roads, we would put that money towards better public transportation.

    In the mean time, there is always Hawaii, I hear they have 24 hour bus service.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  21. Anonymous
    Posted January 21, 2007 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t Ypsi about 600+ feet above sea level. How does a 20ft increase in sea levels wipe out Riverside park?

    – Steve

  22. egpenet
    Posted January 21, 2007 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Fictional backwash …

    Ypsi is 600 feet above the Atlantic … but only about 50-75 feet above Lake Erie and the Detroit River.

    The great inland sea of 30,000 years ago could reform below and along what are now the little hills of Ypsilanti and Ford lake … the backwash of such an inland sea would flood the park and cause catastrophic backwash up the river all tghe way to Kensington (headwaters). Those of us along the banks would have a beautiful lake view. Getting from here to Depot Town or to the Bomber would be a royal pain.

    How’s THAT for fear-baiting?

  23. Anonymous
    Posted January 21, 2007 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I can’t find any data or forecasts that suggests a 20 foot increase in sea levels will recreate the great inland sea or even flood Ypsilanti.

    The current level of Lake Michigan and Huron is 577 feet. That is the depth. It was 581 in 1987.

    The altitude at the Detroit river is 581 above sea level. Detroit is 623 and Ypsilanti, according to the Weather underground, is 715.

    Where is the source for this info.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  24. mark
    Posted January 21, 2007 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    For a Democrat, you’re pretty good at wielding the rhetorical tricks of the Bush party, Steve. You’re entitled to your opinion, and I appreciate a vigorous debate as much as the next guy, but it seems to me as though you’re bullying Ed, or at least trying to.

    I don’t see as how shifting the conversation to his car, and how much it pollutes, or, for that matter, suggesting that we just confiscate all the old cars, really helps move the dialogue forward. It’s like when the Republicans run ads down south telling people that the Democrats want to take their Bibles away. Fear is a great motivator.

    Why not just say that we should kill the elderly? They eat our food, drink our water, use our heat for their homes, and don’t contribute significantly to the economy? Wouldn’t that make sense too?

    No one here wants to take people’s cars. And I personally don’t care if Ed drives an old car. (Actually, I do think that we should probably do emissions testing on vehicles, as they do in several other states, but I don’t think that someone should have to get rid of their existing car just because, since they’ve owned it, another, more economical model has come about.) None of us are perfect. I drive a hybrid. While I get relatively good gas mileage, I’m told that the batteries pose an environmental threat. If I were a better person, I’d ride a bike. None of us are perfect. We fly, we eat beef, we have bigger homes than we need, we waste resources. Our goal shouldn’t be to “make everyone perfect.”? It should be to find a sustainable balance. If people want to expend more energy, say behind the wheel of an SUV, then they should be willing to pay more. Right now, however, I think we’d all agree, the price we in Americans pay at pump doesn’t come close to reflecting the actual cost of obraining it (with the assistance of the US military), getting it to us, or the scarcity of it. That’s what we’re talking about.

    So let’s put all of that aside and focus on the merits of the gas tax… Yes, I’ll give you that it might lead to higher prices in transportation, and therefore throughout the economy. That’s true. I am of the opinion, however, that if our fellow citizens really knew what the situation was, they would rather suffer a bit now than have their children suffer a lot later. There have been other times when our country struggled. During World War II we had scrap metal drives, some items were rationed, and we were all asked to sacrifice for the good of the country. I don’t see why that shouldn’t be the case right now. But, instead, we’re all expected to just go on living our lives without any thought as to the bigger picture. A national gas tax would just be one small part of the solution… We cannot afford to keep living inside of this illusion that nothing is wrong.

  25. egpenet
    Posted January 21, 2007 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Mark … Steve and I are having fun going back and forth at the expense of no one but ourselves. If Steve and Hillary Clinton come and take away my Aerostar, I WILL be upset. But that’s two years away, and I’m not worried about it now.

    I joke about oil now, but will we see oil at $100bbl before the end of the decade? You bet! Refine that barrel into gasoline/ethanol and compute the per gallon price … north of $5 for sure.

    And by the way, my emissions are fine, because I take care of my vehicle, have it serviced, keep it running well, just got a new muffler, checked the converter … unless Hikllary raises the air quality standards another couple notches … I’m fine. Good maintenance is how I’ve kept this car going! Thanks, Dan and Conley!

    However, with more locally available goods and services downtown, or in Depot Town or on Cross, I wouldn’t have to drive a clunker around the city. I could walk to buy meat and produce, etc. like I used to when Knights was here. And on and on. Someday …

    Cheers, Mark. Cheers, Steve … gotta hit the hay.

  26. Dr. Cherry
    Posted January 22, 2007 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    We don’t have to worry about the levels of the Great Lakes rising if we keep allowing international corporations to make huge withdrawals and export it outside our watershed.

    Of course our lakes and streams are drying up in the process which doesn’t bode well for the huntin’ and fishin’ crowd.

  27. schutzman
    Posted January 23, 2007 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I do not, at the most basic level, believe that there is any meaning to the statement “People know best how to spend their money,” as is suggested above. The number of Americans using the cash they save at the pump to foster new energy technologies is so ridiculously small, that they could all be fit onto the head of a pin and still leave room for an infinite number of angels.

    99% of the time, the average American who believes he has come into possession of ‘extra’ money, will immediately invest said funds in the economy of China.

    That’s what we do. We consume. The only thing cheap gas really means, is that we can afford more plasma televisions.

  28. Anonymous
    Posted January 24, 2007 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    I went around tonight with the G-men. No one would give up their car. Guess we have to come up with a new plan.

    – Steve

  29. Dr. Cherry
    Posted January 24, 2007 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Steve’s right, there’s no point in trying to persuade people to consume less. It’s what average Americans were born to do and they’ll resist any form of conservation. In fact, they’ll attack any idea to do so as unamerican.

    Since people refuse associate their actions and habits with the economy, and remain willfully uninformed, they’re just going to have follow the curve of deconsumption as the dollar slides.

    Though I do remember having a conversation with Steve P about his opinion in support of forcing people to wear motorcycle helmets. His reasoning was because rider’s choice to not wear a helmet costs everyone in the insurance pool more.

    If we apply the same reasoning to the use of gasoline, it follows that people aren’t always allowed to make their own decisions when others are affected by their behavior.

    I suspect the argument against a gas tax is more in support of a particular agenda than pure reason.

  30. Anonymous
    Posted January 24, 2007 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Steve C.,

    The issue is not over costs or choice. It is competitiveness.

    A $5 gas tax that is only applied in the U.S. will make U.S. products more expensive here and overseas and will make foreign products cheaper here in the U.S. Thus the unintended consquences of the $5 gas tax is it kills American companies and creates a huge new financial incentive to import more goods from overseas because they can be produced much cheaper in those countries with substantially lower fuel costs.

    – Steve

  31. schutzman
    Posted January 24, 2007 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I thought this is why the concept of tariffs was invented.

  32. Dr. Cherry
    Posted January 24, 2007 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Steve P.

    That clarifies what’s behind the issue. You’re absolutely right in what gas tax would do to American Companies.

    I don’t know that a gas tax would necessarily apply to those with tax id numbers, it seems like it would only work if it was a luxury tax on end consumers.

    In the end, I don’t believe that any change could come from a mandated tax (or law), it would have to come from people deciding to behave differently which I find extremely unlikely.

  33. mark
    Posted January 24, 2007 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    If you agree with Steve’s logic, we should also be paying our workers what they would make in China.

    And, just to clarify, this discussion started when I suggested a 25-cent per gallon tax on gas. Somehow, it’s gone from that to a “$5 gas tax” (in Steve’s last comment). I can agree with Steve that a $5 gas tax would hurt business, but no one here called for one.

    And, as for global competition, isn’t it true that Americans pay less for gas than any other people in the world? As that’s the case, shouldn’t we, by Steve’s logic, be beating everyone else when it comes to world trade?

  34. murph
    Posted January 25, 2007 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    “As that’s the case, shouldn’t we, by Steve’s logic, be beating everyone else when it comes to world trade?”

    This is where Detroit keeps disappointing me. I’ve seen any number of both economists and ecologists point to high energy prices in Japan, Germany, Sweden, as a big reason *for* those countries’ explosive auto industries. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and high fuel prices force those manufacturers out of the “what, me innovate?” attitude that the Big 3 demonstrate to this day. The challenges presented by high fuel costs help push those countries’ manufacturers to innovate, and figure out how to fit all the desired features into a reasonable package, and what tradeoffs to make. If good Americans only want what Detroit is making, why is it that Montanans love their Subarus so much? (I spent the last week there, and I swear that the top two new cars are both Subies – Montanans are switching over from SUVs in droves, because Detroit’s not making the tradeoffs they want, and putting things in the right packages.)

    Yes, American labor and health care costs play a role too, but you won’t find me criticizing fair wages or health care for workers. Those being what set us apart from third world sweatshops, we have to take the improvements we can get elsewhere.

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